HyperionDev’s Caissa Veeran discusses why upskilling will future-proof a business

About 85 million jobs are estimated to be displaced by 2025.

It is expected that by 2025, 85 million jobs globally may be displaced as a result of technology.

However, as we continue to adopt technology into our work lives, 97 million new roles have been predicted to emerge. With this in mind, forward-thinking companies should upskill their employees in order for the business to remain competitive.

Currently, South Africa is faced with a skills gap. This is reflected in a 2020/21 survey released by XpatWeb, that shows the demand for ICT skills remains steady. Thirteen percent of respondents indicated that they struggle to source skilled professionals to drive their operational demand to transition into the digital economy.

The survey revealed that the most sought-after jobs include IT application developers, data analysts, data scientists, software developers, software engineers, IT programme managers, and network architects.

With this in mind, upskilling on the job is a sustainable option to bridge this skills gap through ongoing training and development programmes, especially since many long-established and experienced employees are running the risk of becoming obsolete.

It is also often simpler to address the skills gap by training the existing workforce rather than recruiting a new candidate. However, after the economic fallout from last year’s COVID-19 pandemic, many employers may be tempted to shelve employee upskilling plans for the future. It is important to note that although upskilling can seem costly, it provides a significantly higher return on investment.

Learning code is a win for all
The best place to start when it comes to future-proofing a company is to upskill employees with coding skills. Even providing non-technical employees with the chance to learn code gives them the opportunity to advance in their current roles or uncover new areas they may have an interest in or aptitude for. This makes it more likely they’ll stay with the company as their professional goals evolve.

In addition, it assists with arming employees with further skills such as problem-solving. Although many think that this is a soft skill, it’s one that’s best practised through learning to code. That’s because part of learning to code is learning how to think like a programmer and defining a problem, breaking it down into smaller pieces, and exploring various possible solutions.

By understanding what developers, engineers, and data scientists do, people in non-technical roles will be in a better position to work with them to co-create solutions or products, ultimately benefiting the business.

Equipping your employees with coding skills prepares them for the future of work and gives leadership a greater opportunity to fill future talent gaps internally. It’s a win-win.

Coding is everywhere
All sectors of the economy need programmers. As the healthcare industry leverages data to improve, it will result in more efficient operations and better patient outcomes.

Agriculture and the blossoming agritech sector need talented coders to help solve the complexities of food supply. In finance, programming is useful in setting up electronic trading systems, pricing derivatives and creating tools to analyse data. Finance professionals rely on programming languages like Python for risk management, pricing, and trade management programs.

As marketing continues to expand into the digital realm, employers look for candidates with programming skills. Product managers, in particular, often blend marketing with technical skills as they design and create new products.

But nowhere is coding more needed than in artificial intelligence (AI), as man and machine join forces to work in simpler, quicker and more cost-effective ways. As the digital landscape rapidly changes, the focus of today’s world is around AI. The need for AI engineers exists in all fields, as artificial intelligence is one of the fastest-growing areas for high-tech professionals.

Upskilling retains and retrains staff
In order to create a robust upskilling programme, employers need to devise a strategic plan. This can be done by building a long-term view of the company’s skills requirements, mapping out the current workforce’s strengths and gaps, as well as identifying the skills in which employees could be trained. The goal is to be proactive and stay ahead of future demands to get an edge over competitors.

Learning and development is the critical link in employee retention. It signals that the employer values its people and is invested in their success. An employer who doesn’t focus on upskilling is certainly going to lose out.

No matter the industry, job roles and the skills required to do them are rapidly being redefined. Additionally, technology is advancing so fast that linear career paths are a thing of the past, with employees of today constantly trying new roles and learning new skills.

As such, companies should be looking for ways to future-proof their staff in these uncertain times and make their business less vulnerable to external shocks.